After a comfortable win against Middlesbrough last weekend it has been a quiet week in the world of Arsenal.
The aim this weekend is to leave Selhurst Park ‘Glad All Over’ before commencing our Champions League campaign.
Rumours have surrounded Cazorla’s future during this slow week with Atlético Madrid’s alleged interest making headlines. Arsène Wenger dismissed those suggestions on Friday morning:
“He extended his contract last year. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, we’ve not been approached.”
Meanwhile, Wenger confirmed that Thierry Henry has taken a couple of training sessions recently, and insists that all former players are welcome to do so when striving for their coaching badges.
Three points on Saturday would see us – for 24 hours – leapfrog Southampton and go into fourth place. The league has really closed up between 3rd and 7th, with just five points separating Manchester United, Southampton, Liverpool, Spurs, and ourselves.
There is still a lot of football to be played but one bad run of results would probably leave you out of contention in such a congested battle, Palace would be a good place to continue our good form.
Arsène Wenger reiterated in this morning’s press conference at London Colney that it will be another couple of weeks for Ramsey, with Oxlade-Chamberlain set to return next week.
Long-term absentees Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are still out for the foreseeable future.
Jack Wilshere, however, should return to the squad. Whether or not he will start remains to be seen, as the manager was fairly non-committal on that front on Friday morning.
Héctor Bellerín (ankle) and Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) will both have fitness tests.
Wenger has plenty of options, with Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck realistically vying for just one space in the team. He will also have to decide whether or not to stick with Wojciech Szczęsny, though he will probably reinstate David Ospina in goal.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Welbeck; Giroud.
It goes without saying that Selhurst Park will be loud on Saturday, the Palace fans create a great atmosphere at the old ground – especially when one of the big sides comes to visit.
Alan Pardew seems to have enjoyed returning to Crystal Palace, where he spent a few years during his career.
As a player Pardew featured in a promotion and a Cup Final for the Eagles, and the fans have welcomed him more warmly than he was ever treated at Newcastle.
After just one win in their last fourteen games under Neil Warnock, their fortunes were instantly repaired by Pardew’s appointment. They won their next four in a row (two in the FA Cup, including an impressive victory over Southampton) and have taken 10 points from 5 Premier League games, beating Tottenham, Burnley, and Leicester City.
Arsenal face former striker Marouane Chamakh again on Saturday.
Chamakh has had somewhat of a renaissance at Palace after his Arsenal career more or less fell off a cliff (despite a good yet under-appreciated first half a season in red and white).
On-loan Yaya Sanogo can’t face us, but key man and captain Mile Jedinak could return to the team for the first time since enjoying success in the Asia Cup with Australia.
Possible XI: Speroni; Ward, Hangeland, Dann, Souaré; Puncheon, McArthur, Ledley, Bolasie; Chamakh, Gayle.
Still charging on in three competitions can be tough, especially when we have to play midweek games.
With the Champions League coming up again this week and a really tough FA Cup tie handed to us in Monday’s draw it’s paramount that we really hit form.
We don’t have many injuries right now and the depth of the squad is good, hopefully good enough to maintain challenges in all competitions.
For this weekend we have to keep our eye on the ball to keep the pace with the teams around us – there are so many teams battling for third and fourth that any slip up is likely to be punished.
Hopefully Saturday marks the start of a great week as we take the opportunity to go up to (at least) fourth in the table and follow that up with a good result against Monaco.